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Girl Peeking Over Basket
School Backpack

The Browns Mill Cluster

Surveys conducted by the Atlanta City Council revealed a lack of quality, nutritious food options, leaving community residents, in most instances, to buy food from neighborhood drug stores, gas stations and fast-food restaurants. Data from the 2019 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) conducted by the CDC revealed a correlation between healthy dietary behaviors and academic performance in students with lower grades compared to students with higher grades within their demographic.  

The sites included in the Browns Mill Cluster, two elementary schools and one middle school, with a combined enrollment of over 1300 students, scored an average of 83% below Georgia State Milestone test proficiency levels for math and 90% below proficiency for reading.  Each seem directly impacted by the historically underserved culture of food insecurity among other environmental justice issues.  Each school reports 100% of their enrollment as minority qualifying for and participating in the National School Lunch Program with each dedicating their project based learning objectives to STEM based agriculture.  

Our Farm to School strategies began in 2018 in the Browns Mill Cluster with targeted, deliberate, and solutions based activities.  We developed an area asset map as an evaluation effort to identify partners in our advocacy.  We strategized with other conservation partners to involve community members in integral roles in both decision-making and leadership. We partnered with the City of Atlanta Office of Resiliency/AgLanta to provide conservation and outreach support in the development of the Urban Food Forest at Browns Mill Community Garden as a model for integrating food resources into park development plans.  

In 2021, through our Director’s Guild, we partnered with Instructional Coaches from various schools around the district to develop an agriculture based curriculum for ages 12-17, on constructively advocating for equity in their food system. Then in summer 2022, we conducted three one week sessions on food security and advocacy, fundamentals of growing produce, soil health, pollinators and composting. 

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Beginning in fall of 2024 this project will continue the work in an area of metropolitan Atlanta impacted by the historic underinvestment from national grocery chains. This is the first of a comprehensive four year sustainability strategy, to improve academic performance while producing economic and environmental impacts on the community's food system. Our collaboration with each school’s teaching staff, Parent, Teacher and Student Association (PTA) and the Urban Food Forest at Browns Mill Community Garden and FoodCorp will introduce advancements in food production, processing, irrigation and storage and begin phase one development of compliance procedures for local sourcing as well as agricultural literacy components. 

In continuation of our 2022 engagement project we are partnering with lead instructional coaches at each participating school  to implement a cluster wide problem based learning strategy (a student-centered pedagogy in which students learn through the experience of solving an open-ended problem.) with an urban agricultural approach.  

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